Monday, September 21, 2020

Teams must put in place medical support for players

In 1997, Africa lost one of its finest players by the name of Hedi Berkhisa, who died of a heart attack immediately after a match.

His Tunisian Club, Esperance, was playing a friendly with a French side, Olympic Lyon.
It was a great loss because he did a lot for his country and a lot was also expected from him. His death was a big loss but many countries, especially those in the African continent, did not take precautionary measures to avoid likely future deaths until an even severe tragedy struck.

Six years after Berkhisa’s tragedy the world watched live as Cameroon star, Marc Vivian Foe, lay dying of a heart related attack while playing for his country in a FIFA Confederation match against Colombia in France.

His death sent shockwaves around the world, especially that he was playing for English Premier League side, Birmingham City.

Immediately after his death, FIFA made it compulsory for teams all over the world to do intensive cardio tests for their players to prevent future happenings of this sort.
After FIFA’s appeal, it seems many countries have not heeded the calls. There are still similar deaths, especially in the African continent.

Just recently, another upcoming and prominent Under 23 Nigerian striker, Endurance Idahor, who was playing for Sudanese top club Al Merreikh, passed on. He was the most feared striker in Sudan because he had scored 118 goals in 176 appearances.

In Botswana there has never been a similar case to date but nothing can be ruled out because warning signs are already there.

Football in Botswana is experiencing a bit of growth, meaning that the medical side should be taken very seriously because it concerns life of players who could do a lot for the country.
The country’s Premier League teams have always bemoaned the lack of adequate funds and if they were to fully comply with FIFA requirements, their pockets would be drained further.

On the other hand, the secretary of the Premier League Committee, Setete Phuthego, told Sunday Standard that plans are afoot to formalize everything for the next season.

“By next season, we want to have a licensing system for both the players and the coaches. As part of the requirements, players in the Premier League will be required to have medical certificates. Medical records would in turn mean medical examinations of players. It might be an expensive exercise but it needs to be done, looking at what is happening all over the world concerning the untimely death of players. This will force the clubs to have medics on a full time basis so that the health of the players is not compromised,” he said.

Phuthego added that they are still waiting for the licensing system from FIFA so that they put everything on record.

Most of the teams do not have medics and those who carry out such duties are in most cases not qualified.

The incident that brought shame to local football was two seasons ago when champions, Township Rollers, were playing against BMC in a league encounter. Rollers player, Boitumelo Mafoko, sustained what appeared to be a serious head injury, but there was no medical personnel to attend to him. A private car had to be used to take him to the hospital.

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Sunday Standard September 20 – 26

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of September 20 - 26, 2020.